May 13, 2016

‘Coach’ takes pride in sharing faith, football with teams

By John Shaughnessy

Mark GumbelWhen Mark Gumbel coached seventh- and eighth-grade boys in Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football for 19 years, he always tried to remember his own days as a junior high school student.

“It’s a time when the boys are becoming young men,” says Gumbel, a member of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. “There’s so much that is going on for them physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s important to keep them going in the right direction. My whole approach was, ‘Let’s get better mentally, spiritually and physically every day.’ ”

While Gumbel always strived to get his players to gel into a team that played for each other and cared about each other, he also did everything he could to be part of a “team” that would help them reach their mental, spiritual and physical potential.

He introduced himself to the St. Matthew teachers of his players, assuring them they could count on him to keep school a priority for the boys.

He invited the pastor and the parish staff to practices and games. He had his players and coaches attend Sunday Mass together on game days. He prayed with his team at practices and games, constantly stressing the importance of their faith.

“It’s called Catholic Youth Organization,” he says. “It’s in the title so it’s important.”

So are the memories and the relationships that were created together.

“Memories get created in the field, but also afterward. When they come back and you hear they’re doing well, you feel good about your part in having helped them.

“From my perspective, the best thing a person can be called is ‘Coach.’ Because the pure connotation of that is that you helped teach and guide people. And you could have done it in any one of those three perspectives—physically, spiritually or mentally.”

Gumbel did all three. Call him “Coach.” †


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